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Posted on December 12, 2022 at 3:50 PM by Kari Bray
This is Part 25 in a multi-week series of blogs focused on the ABC’s for Healthy Kids. Learn more at www.snohd.org/healthykids.
Teach children that their health matters because they matter. Start that conversation early. There are many ways to help children build resilience, from helping them find their own strengths to showing them the importance of helping others. You are the example – if you want your child to believe they are important, you need to model some confidence and self-care for yourself.
Why do I have to eat the broccoli? Why am I taking more swim lessons? Why do I need to brush my teeth before bed? Why can’t I just stay up all night?
Kids may come to you with a lot of questions about the healthy habits you’re trying to instill in them. You might find yourself explaining again and again that we do these things to stay healthy.
OK. But why is their health important?
No matter what healthy habit you are teaching or reinforcing with your child, this is at the heart of it.
Why do the decisions they make about their health matter so much?
Well … their health is important because they are important.
Helping children and teens understand how much they matter is one of the most impactful things parents and caregivers can do to set them up for a healthy future. By reinforcing the message that they are important, you are building confidence and resilience so they are better equipped to overcome hardship, make the most of opportunities, and keep building good habits for their physical and mental health.
Children and teens with more positive self-esteem are more likely to keep trying when they struggle with something, and to ask for help if they need it.
The odds are good that, at some point, things will happen in a child’s life that could tear them down. You can make a world of difference by helping build them up.
Kids may be small, but they can be mighty. They just need the encouragement.
There are a lot of ways to encourage them.
It will be hard to convince your child that they are important if they see you treating yourself as though you’re not.
As with any other healthy habit, you are their role model.
Practice self-care. It’s more than a buzzword. It means that you take a few moments every single day to ask yourself how you are feeling and what you need. It may be as simple as realizing you’re cranky because you missed lunch and you need to go get something to eat, or as complex as working through your own negative childhood experiences. Take a break when you need one. Find activities you genuinely enjoy and make time for them. Unplug now and then. Be willing to lean on others and, in turn, to let them lean on you when they need support.
If you’re in the habit of talking down to yourself, start reshaping that conversation right now. Set a goal to speak positively about yourself, especially when little ears are listening. You can identify areas for improvement without being mean to yourself. We see this a lot with body image – someone saying they are “fat” or “lazy.” Reframe it with a goal: “I’m not feeling my best today. I think I’d like to get a walk in tomorrow – some exercise would help.”
Be willing to talk about your feelings, and let children and teens know that even adults need to ask for help. If you’re facing something they’re too young to discuss, you can still demonstrate the good steps you’re taking. “I’m very stressed right now, so I’m going to call your aunt and talk for a while. It helps me to talk to somebody when I have a bad day.”
Your child is important, and you should remind them of how much they matter to you. Remind them sincerely. Remind them often.
And don’t forget: You are important, too.
Take some time now to check off the “Y” in the ABCs for healthy kids. How are you reminding your children that they matter?
Kids may be small, but they can by mighty. Building their confidence and resilience early on helps set them up to overcome hurdles and make the most of opportunities in their future.